Arab-European axis of friendship takes shape in Athens

Arab-European axis of friendship takes shape in Athens
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said regular meetings will be held in order to constantly expand the fields of partnership. (AFP)
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Updated 12 February 2021

Arab-European axis of friendship takes shape in Athens

Arab-European axis of friendship takes shape in Athens
  • Greek, Cypriot, Egyptian, Saudi, Bahraini, Emirati, French foreign ministers discuss closer cooperation in various fields

ATHENS: Respecting international law and national sovereignty, and pursuing peaceful resolutions to disputes, are the recipe for regional security and stability, the foreign ministers of Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and France said on Thursday at the Philia Forum in Athens.

“Our countries are connected by close relations, which come from the past and meet in everything we believe today, in international law and in the law of the sea, in peace, in good neighborly relations, as well as in stability,” said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

“It is for this reason that our initiative is open to all, without turning against anyone, transcending the borders of the states that constitute it, uniting three continents and connecting Europe with the Arab world.”

Mitsotakis said regular meetings will be held in order to constantly expand the fields of partnership.

The countries that participated in the forum — “philia” is the Greek word for “friendship” — issued a joint statement reiterating their adherence to international law, including the UN Charter, Security Council resolutions, and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, “to which we are all signatories.”

The statement stressed “our strong commitment to fundamental principles enshrined therein, such as the respect of the sovereignty, sovereign rights, independence and territorial integrity of states, the peaceful resolution of differences and rejection of threat or use of force, the non-interference in other counties’ internal affairs and the freedom of navigation.”

The seven countries recognized that “in this critical juncture, overshadowed by the global pandemic, the need to demonstrate solidarity and coordinate our efforts in order to minimize the repercussions of this health crisis on our economies is all the more urgent.”

They also expressed their readiness to promote result-oriented exchanges, as well as joint actions and initiatives in such fields as energy, innovation, digital economy, civil protection, people-to-people contacts, science, agriculture, food security, academic education and training, interfaith dialogue, culture and sports.

Diplomatic sources, speaking anonymously to Arab News, said one of the most important developments of the forum was the meeting between Mitsotakis and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

The ministers reiterated the excellent level of bilateral relations, and discussed ways to expand Greek-Saudi cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, investment, tourism and defense.

Greece attaches great importance to fostering closer defense cooperation with moderate Arab countries such as the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Recently, Greece and the UAE signed a mutual defense assistance agreement.

Although the forum’s participants insisted that their cooperation is not aimed against anyone, Turkish assertiveness in the region and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s firebrand Islamist rhetoric have brought them closer than ever.

Prince Faisal stressed the importance of respect for states’ territorial integrity in accordance with international law, and said Saudi Arabia views the world from the angle of peace and prosperity. “We condemn intervention in the internal affairs of other countries,” he added.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry highlighted the importance of the East Med Gas Forum (EMGF), another of the multilateral formats created in the region during the last decade. The Cairo-based EMGF aims to promote the business and political interests of its members.

Shoukry met on the sidelines of the forum with his Greek and Cypriot counterparts, Nikos Dendias and Nikos Christodoulides respectively.

The three ministers issued a joint statement after their meeting welcoming the agreement by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum on a transitional unified executive authority for the country.

They also consider “any foreign intervention (in Libya) as unacceptable, and all agreements concluded in violation of international law as null and void.”